Brendan Nyhan is one of the few left-leaning bloggers I read; he's occasionally willing to call a foul when someone on his side goes overboard. But he recently went off the deep end himself, seeing the veiled specter of racism in the comments of one Karl Rove.
Karl Rove is again pushing the suggestion that Barack Obama is lazy, a claim that connotes ugly racial stereotypes about African Americans.What was Rove's sin this time? It occurs in a WSJ op-ed from a couple days back.
Nyhan also quotes previous Rovian utterances that bring up the 'lazy' criticism. But (importantly, in my view), Rove has also provided examples of (possible) symptoms of such (alleged) laziness: "present" votes, relying on charm over substance, vague answers to specific questions, etc.
Mr. Obama, on the other hand, needs to reassure Americans he is up to the job. Voters recognize he represents change, yet they are unsettled. Does he have the experience to be president? There are growing concerns, which the McCain campaign has tapped, that Mr. Obama is an inexperienced celebrity-politician smitten with his own press clippings.
And is there really a "there" there? Besides withdrawing from Iraq, it's not clear what issues are really important to him. Does he do his homework or is he intellectually lazy? Is there an issue on which he would do the unpopular thing or break with party orthodoxy? Is his candidacy about important answers or simply about us being the "change we've been waiting for"? Substance will help diminish concerns about his heft and fitness for the job.
There's no indication that Rove is trying to fan racist flames here. One could easily see him making the same criticism of a white Democrat. (And certainly enough Democrats have said it about Dubya.) For someone like Nyhan, who regularly decries the tactic of "mind-reading" one's opponents to discover the true motivation behind their words, this is pretty lame.
If you really do think Obama is intellectually lazy, that ought to be an arguable point, not easily dismissed by crying "racism!"
It appears we're in for a few months where all communications concerning Obama will be analyzed for subtle hidden meanings and veiled slurs. Recent examples:
Someone called Obama skinny.
A whole bunch of people called Obama "articulate".
Yes, even compliments can be racist, Senator Biden.
You too, President
Bush. And, sorry, Karl Rove: you can't win.
And it's not just words, but also symbols: specifically
symbols. To be safe, no GOP ad had better have any pictures
of anything longer than it is wide.
And let's not forget the whole Antichrist
thing. (Fortunately, Snopes says that's false.
Thank goodness for Snopes, otherwise I'd totally buy it.)
And someone has even gone out of their way to point out
that Obama doesn't look like all the other presidents on dollar bills,
a comment that a
majority of voters see as racist.
Ah, never mind.